Leaving The Mall


I had to run an errand yesterday at the mall. Needless to say… it was not pleasant. The sheer number of people out on a Tuesday afternoon was baffling. I saw folks doing the ‘grab and go’ in stores, hoping that whatever gift they were hastily purchasing would suffice. One lady snatched up four big fuzzy sweaters and hardly looked at them before bolting for the register. I saw a sweet old man meticulously shopping for his wife, asking the sales lady how her day was going and what she thought of each piece of clothing he picked out. It was really touching until the saleswoman had to bolt off to help other, less chatty customers. I smiled at him and said I thought it was really thoughtful what he was doing and how most husbands would never take that much time picking out clothes for their wives. Disappointed that he could no longer chat with her, he smiled and sighed, “well, things just aren’t what they used to be.”

Isn’t that the truth. I headed back to my car thinking, “I’m so over this.” Thank goodness for online shopping I suppose. It’s not that I mind all the gifts and the joy they bring, but we have really sucked the fun right out of the whole thing. We’ve lost the purpose behind it all. I say this every year, but I always find myself longing for an old-fashioned Christmas that exists only in my mind. Childhood Christmases are so magical to us for the simple fact that we were children and didn’t know yet any of the hustle involved in making meals or magical mornings happen. I know for a fact my poor parents had to almost throw down in the Toys R Us store for my 1985 Cabbage Patch Doll. I never knew any of that, I just remember waking up Christmas morning to my beloved doll (his name was Chauncey you guys…) and loving him. 

We love and long for new and fresh things in our lives. Never is it more glaringly apparent than this time of year. We are suckers for the shiny gadgets, the soft sweaters, the latest book. All good things, until they become the things. I remember freaking out one December because I was the only mom who didn’t have Ann Voskamp’s new advent book. I spent an entire day of my life running all over town to find it. Once in hand, I really was convinced that this would be the year we finally do advent the right way. We read it for about a week and then it trailed off. It wasn’t a bad book or anything, but at the end of the day, it’s just a book, not the Christ Child himself. It sounds silly, but it took me about two years to come to terms with the fact that my kids just weren’t that into it. 

This time of year especially, I need to remind myself that I cannot start with man and squeeze God in as filler. Christ can’t just hold a symbolic top spot on an otherwise long list, He must be everywhere . It was God who addressed man that first Christmas, and it is He who continues to stir our hearts at Christmastime. Things are definitely not what they used to be, as the old man in the store reminded me. 

There’s a longing this time of year in my heart for something I know I’ll never quite get. I see glimpses of it, but it’s not going to be fulfilled by any gift or experience this world can offer. We don’t need the latest advent book to find Jesus. I for one can’t read one more hot-take about what I need to be doing this December… not right now anyways. This is a time for quiet, in spite of what everyone at the mall thinks. It’s a time to return to the childlike simplicity and the beauty of the manger and the God who offers us gifts infinitely more lasting than anything we could ever buy.

My Life is CAVU

Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.

“CAVU was the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific,” he said. “We had little navigational instrumentation, so we wanted to CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited, and because of the five of you whose hugs I can still feel, whose own lives made me so proud, I can confidently tell my guardian angel that my life is CAVU and it will be that way until I die. All because of you.” George H.W. Bush

In a letter to his kids on the eve of the Gulf War, the 41st President of the United States wrote the above to his children. Most of us non-military types are probably unaware of this now-trending acronym, but I was so touched by it I wanted to share it. Bush referred to it often, saying he thought it represented his life. Regardless of storms that may come, with faith and family, we can serve and fulfill our purpose with clear eyes and a ‘full speed ahead’ kind of confidence.

His was probably the last generation that will leave behind an abundance of actual hand-written letters that testify to the trials and triumphs of a life lived for something far bigger than oneself. I am grieved that the era of the Greatest Generation is coming to a close and even more saddened by a culture that has become so obsessed with personal success that the greatest goal one can have is to live for oneself.

We don’t have to agree on politics to see that there was something different about these guys and gals. They could disagree with dignity and they weren’t afraid to fight for what was right. At the end of the day, if people can genuinely speak with fondness of you at your funeral, saying that you loved God and man well, you have succeeded.

Bush 41 spoke about “a thousand points of light” often. He knew and lived out the commandment to be a light to a dark world. The world needs more brave and humble people like this. We need believers who aren’t afraid to be a light, who don’t run to shove their light under a basket when asked to take a stand. I will miss this generation if not for that quality alone. While boldly telling you the truth, they’d give you the shirt off their back.

President Bush was a man who knew what he believed and didn’t back down from it. It didn’t make him mean, it made him genuine. Even in death, he made us all realize once again that we are not here to serve ourselves, but one another. We may not be called to a great world stage as he was, but we are all called to greatness. For the Christian, that means living life CAVU.

Fear and Hustling

Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he comes and rain righteousness upon you. –Hosea 10:12

I’m no farmer, so I looked up the exact meaning of the word fallow in the dictionary after coming across this verse. It means land that is unseeded, unsown, idle or obsolete. It’s land that could be used to grow crops, but has been left alone to compact and harden. Fallow land will yield absolutely nothing come harvest time, except possibly some weeds.

Hosea is pleading with the people of Israel to get real about the sin in their lives and turn away from it. Throughout the book, he refers to them as an unfaithful harlot whose straying has wreaked havoc, causing all kinds of idolatry and chaos. This verse is an encouragement, a plea in the middle of an otherwise dreary chapter, to snap out of it and return to the God who really is on their side. Continue reading

Courted and Persuaded

Courting is kind of an old fashioned idea, gone out of style except maybe for the occasional Hallmark movie. It’s a flattering thing, when someone finds such value in you that they want to win over your affections. Courting implies a pursuit of some kind, one person chasing after another because they value their affections. It’s a lovely thought.

Until… it’s not. Hallmark movies aside, what about when the pursuing party isn’t all that wonderful? Think of slimy politicians courting their voter base with empty promises. We all would like to be pursued by someone worthy, but what about when something very unworthy is knocking at our door?

I read this morning in Galatians a plea from Paul to the church that struck a chord:

“They zealously court you, but for no good. Yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.” Galatians 4:17

He’s speaking of false teachers who prey on believers for their own benefit. I got to thinking about the world as a whole, how it entices us and knocks at our door… how it courts us with outstretched hand to follow its lead. We fall into a kind of daze at the promise of something better and we follow it right into a dead end, or worse. The promises are empty.

He goes on to say this:

“You ran well, who hindered you from the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” 5:7-8

This persuasion… this arm-twisting, this luring, this tempting… this is not from God! Paul is acknowledging that they were doing so well, until they allowed themselves to be courted and persuaded by the wrong people.

We feel this draw every single day, this almost magnetic pull the world has on us. It holds out its hand and summons us to come and follow. Some of us get lost in hours of scrolling or shopping, hoping the world will fulfill its promise to satisfy us. Others throw themselves into work, thinking the world will reward their sacrifices. Some habitually get lost in pills or a bottle because its better than feeling disappointed again.

It doesn’t really matter how we do it, what matters is that as children of God, we shouldn’t even be willing to allow the enemy to court us or persuade us in any form.

Paul says that we are known by God and he can’t even fathom how we could turn ourselves over to such weak and beggarly elements whose only goal is to push us back down into bondage (4:9).

Ok Paul, since you put it that way… weak and beggarly. These things that seem so powerful over us are really nothing in the light of His love for us. Jesus doesn’t offer us some second-hand, watered-down alternative to the exciting world outside our doorstep, He offers us the real thing. It’s the world that is watered-down and phony. If we flip the script, we’ll see that the things we are courted by and persuaded into following are all just smoke and mirrors. Beauty, popularity, fame, position… it’s all more temporary then we’d like to admit.

Paul finishes the chapter by reminding us that we have been called to liberty (5:13). Freedom is our calling, and it comes when we refuse to be courted by the world and all its charms. Liberty is our calling, and we walk into it when we refuse to be persuaded by things that are not of Him.

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.” AW Tozer

These Three Things

 

We are in the home stretch… Thanksgiving has come and gone and it’s full-steam ahead to Christmas and a new year. I have no childhood recollection of how fast these few weeks go by, I simply remember enjoying two separate holidays that seemed to just magically happen to my great delight. Grown ups know all too well that holidays never spontaneously just ‘happen’, there’s a lot of time and love put into making things just right, and even the best laid plans can go amuck at any moment. I did something different this year as I sorted through giant totes of Christmas decorations: I took three little objects out that represented true joy to me and I placed them on my desk. 

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Just Go Fishing

“The world seems to have a real genius for being wrong, even the educated world. I can see how a right man might live in a wrong world and not be affected by it except that the world will not let him alone. It wants to educate him. Society, being fluid, usually moves like the wind, going all out in one direction until the novelty wears off. Whatever people happen to be interested in at the moment must be accepted as normal… our highest ambition should be to become integrated to the mass, to lose our moral individuality as a whole.” AW Tozer  Culture

AW Tozer wrote here in this essay of just wanting to go fishing, but the world and its nonsense just wouldn’t leave him alone. I’m sure we all can relate. There are times I walk into a room and my husband is watching the news and I just walk right out… my brain just can’t handle it. It’s like Alice in Wonderland up in here, and everything is topsy-turvy.

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Free A’s And No Homework!

One of my favorite lines from THE INCREDIBLES movie is “if everyone is special, then nobody is special.” It comes from a villain who is plotting a way to make everyone into superheroes, thus negating the current superheroes’ power and prestige. I tried hard to prove this “everyone gets an A” picture as fake news… but alas, it is not. Where was this when I was crying over my math homework in fifth grade? Obviously, it didn’t exist because we lived in reality where you had to earn your grades. Interesting to note that homework and cupcakes are also banned at this particular school in Arlington, Virginia. Of course they are.

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